“It’s a recording of a conversation between my passengers.”
“Do you eavesdrop on your clients?” I raised an eyebrow in mock indignation.
“Huh, of course I do!” bristled Ger, “You never know what they are up to. Last year, when I was the only one who offered trips on Victorieux, I was hired for a pleasure cruise through hi-sec. It was a round trip through all eight systems in the constellation Ani. A particular point of interest was Republic University station in Nakugard where at that time Gallente and Caldari held peace talks. That event received a lot of publicity so it didn’t seem strange that the tourists wanted to visit the place. When we started from Hjoramold I switched on an audio feed from the cabin in a background mode, just to ensure that the party wouldn’t get disorderly. The company didn’t sound like your typical holiday-goers; they spoke in hushed tones and their conversation revolved around Nakugard. I increased the volume and bit by bit put together the pieces of their actual plan. Apparently, they were a group of Caldari extremists who did not want the peace talks to succeed and they were ready to sacrifice themselves to stop the negotiations. Specifically, in Nakugard, when we would have been in the vicinity of Republic University, they intended to hijack the yacht and, using the CovOps cloak, approach the station unnoticed and crash the ship into the conference hall.”
I ordered another round of stout, and Gerhardt continued, “The customer had put some thought into the breakout tactics. First of all, I noticed that there was another Victorieux in the fleet; I guess it was supposed to be used as a decoy. Secondly, the fleet was split into two wings with a Victorieux in each one. The other wing jumped through the gate first and engaged the campers on the others side.” Continue reading “The Escape”
“When all preparations were finished I informed the customer and received coordinates of the pick-up point. It was a citadel deep in null-sec. The intelligence I got was that hostile gate camps were set up to intercept ships flying out of that system but not in, so it was rather easy to get there. On my way to the citadel I had an opportunity to inspect the camps, using the cloak, of course. They mostly consisted of frigates and cruisers with an occasional battleship. Each camp had a pair of interceptors which, I bet, were equipped with instalock; that’s where your LCQ coding efforts would pay off. Also, I was amazed at the scale of our opponents’ operation; on my way the camps started three jumps away from the destination, and I guess all other escape routes were covered in a similar manner.”
“If they had such force at their disposal,” wondered I, “why didn’t they attack the citadel?”
On September 7th, YC118 I received a call from Gerhardt; he was alive and I was entitled to receive my bonus. To be honest, I wasn’t really concerned about that part of our contract. Yes, one can’t have too much money, but the sum I had already received was more than generous. What I was much more interested in was to make Gerhardt keep his promise about answering my questions. Imagine, I couldn’t even boast to my pals about making the acquaintance of a capsuleer – they wouldn’t believe that after spending a week together on spaceship I hardly knew anything about him.
I invited Gerhardt to meet me on my planet Itamo IV but he declined saying he had an allergy to unfiltered air. I wasn’t that picky; to have an opportunity to talk to a capsuleer now I was ready to go even to null-sec! But it didn’t have to be that extreme this time, and we agreed to meet at Perkone Factory.
I didn’t know how to use a jetpack, so Gerhardt packed me in a spacesuit, put another one on and towed me to the yacht. That unusual mode of travel was caused by the lack of in-space docking facilities on the little “runabout”. Victorieux, being a luxury yacht, was equipped with a ship-to-ship dock, but it takes two to dance.
Inside, Victorieux was even more impressive than outside. That’s where the saying “to be on velvet” took a literal meaning. All the furniture was upholstered in royal blue velvet, the walls were lined with panels made from rare and precious Corellian birch, soft music and lighting created a relaxing ambiance and a fully-stocked bar with expensive Amarrian crystalware was waiting for the customers. Continue reading “Field Tests”
As virtual assistants go, Aura was a very nice companion – cheerful, bubbly, with a touch of self-deprecating humour. One could confuse her with a live person if a conversation was limited to small-talk and ship matters. She explained that all my work had to be done on that ship and I was totally isolated from the rest of the world for the next two weeks. Gerhardt made sure that I had everything I needed: food, computer and even a software model of an LCQ controller to test my code. The controller model was several orders of magnitude slower than the real thing but was good enough for testing purposes.
All in all, the arrangement wasn’t any worse than some of the assignments I had before during which I didn’t leave my apartment for weeks at a time. If you throw in a bottle of Scotch as a job perk, it was the best workplace I had had in years. So I cracked my knuckles and got down to work. Continue reading “A Job To Do”
Capsuleers! Everyone heard of them but not many actually met them. Capsuleers were like demigods: they lived in the sky, they knew everything, they had superhuman reflexes and they were virtually immortal. To meet one of them in flesh was every teenager’s dream. And mine too. Although my teenage years were long gone, deep in my soul I still kept a romantic spark which could not be extinguished by adult cynicism. And now that spark turned into a raging wildfire. If only I knew who Gerhardt was before he left, I could have asked him hundreds of questions which were now burning inside me: how did he become a capsuleer? Was it true he could live forever? How did it feel to have cables attached to his back? Continue reading “Aura”
A couple of years ago I was between contracts and was rather hopelessly browsing a site for freelancers trying to find a new job. Hopelessly because my fellow programmers from third-world planets were discounting prices to indecent levels. Each job had already had a few hundred bids, every new one offering a lower price, and even if I won the auction I would not be able to survive on that kind of pay, not on this planet. I was going through the list of jobs without even trying to open descriptions, just checking the number of bids: 311, 472, 308, and then suddenly, on the thirtieth or fortieth page I saw an ad with zero bids! For a while I looked at it in disbelief, thinking if I wanted to spend my time on some kind of sick joke, but then my natural curiosity got the best of me. Continue reading “An Unusual Customer”